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State v. Walker

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 17, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
BYRON J. WALKER

          Assigned on Briefs December 6, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County Nos. 98-01078, 98-01079, 98-01252 James C. Beasley, Jr., Judge

         The Defendant, Byron J. Walker, entered guilty pleas in 1998 in case numbers 98-01078, 98-01079, and 98-01252 to two counts of possession with the intent to sell cocaine and to one count of possession of marijuana. Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent sentences of three years for each possession with the intent to sell cocaine conviction and sixty days' confinement for the possession of marijuana conviction, for an effective three-year sentence. On January 26, 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct illegal sentences. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying relief, (2) the trial court erred in its application of the habeas corpus statute, (3) the trial court's application of State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200 (Tenn. 2015), as the basis for denying relief violated procedural due process, and (4) this court should overturn our supreme court's holding in Brown. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Brandi L. Heiden (on appeal) and Shannon Davis (at hearing), Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Byron J. Walker.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Kenya Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE

         On January 29, 1998, the grand jury returned an indictment in case number 98-01079 for possession with the intent to sell cocaine and possession with the intent to deliver cocaine. On February 3, 1998, the grand jury returned an indictment in case number 98-01252 for possession with the intent to sell cocaine and possession with the intent to deliver cocaine. On April 2, 1998, the Defendant entered guilty pleas to possession with the intent to sell cocaine in both cases and to possession of marijuana in case number 98-01078. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the sentences were to be served concurrently.

         On January 26, 2015, the Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The Defendant argued that concurrent service of his sentences was illegal because Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(c)(3)(C) and Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-20-111(b) required consecutive service. He alleged that consecutive service of his sentences in case numbers 98-01079 and 98-01252 was required because he committed one of the offenses while he was released on bail for the other offense. The trial court appointed counsel and held an evidentiary hearing.

         At the hearing, defense counsel conceded that the Defendant had served the sentences but argued that Marcus Deangelo Lee, No. W2014-00994-CCA-R3-CO, 2015 WL 2330063 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 13, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 9, 2016), provided a basis for relief pursuant to Rule 36.1. Counsel noted that at the time of the hearing, Brown was pending before our supreme court. The trial court agreed to hear the proof and to take the matter under advisement.

         The Defendant testified that after his arrest in case number 98-01252, he was released on bond and that while he was released, he was charged in case number 98-01079. The Defendant said that he entered a plea agreement resolving these cases and that the plea agreement allowed him to serve the sentences concurrently. He denied he was told that concurrent sentencing was illegal because the offense in case number 98-01079 was committed while he was released on bond. He said he relied on the concurrent service term in accepting the plea offer. He said, though, that he would not have accepted the plea offer had he known concurrent sentencing was illegal and that he wanted to withdraw his guilty pleas. He agreed that his sentences were fully served by 2000 and that he was serving a sentence in federal prison for an unrelated matter at the time of the hearing.

         On cross-examination, the Defendant testified that he was charged in federal court about seven or eight years after he served his sentences in the present cases. He agreed that his federal sentence was enhanced based upon his convictions in the present cases and that he hoped to have his convictions in these cases overturned in an effort to reduce his federal sentence.

         The Defendant testified that his attorney told him accepting the plea agreement "was the best thing to do, " that he believed he could have "beat" the charges had he gone to trial, and that he signed the plea agreement because counsel told him to sign it. He said he did not sign the plea agreement because it called for concurrent sentences. He said ...


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